(Prepared April 1991 and filed with Selective Service; Mennonite Central Committee; Garden Park Mennonite Brethren Church; and Mennonite Brethren Southern District)
Record of Conscientious Objection to War
Instruction: Type or write neatly all responses. If you need more space for your answers, attach additional sheets.
[From SSS Form 22, July, 1985 DRAFT]
Prepare and attach written responses to the information requested below. If you wish, you may attach letters from persons who know you. You may also attach any other information you would like the local board to consider.
1. Describe your beliefs which are the reasons for your claiming conscientious objection to combatant military training and service or to all military training and service.
2. Describe how and when you acquired these beliefs. Your answers may include such information as the influence of family members or other persons; training, if applicable; your personal experiences; membership in organizations; books and readings which influenced you.
3. Explain what most clearly shows that your beliefs are deeply held. You may wish to include a description of how your beliefs affect the way you live.
I base my beliefs on Scripture, perhaps best summed up in Jesus' command to "love your enemies." It is clearly impossible to obey this command while preparing to kill or maim another human being. This applies whether done directly as a combatant, or, as Saul held the coats of those stoning Stephen, indirectly through noncombatant service. Although the link is perhaps more tenuous, I believe it also applies when taxes are paid and used for military purposes.
These beliefs were acquired as I was raised (1950-1968) in a family with an active faith in Jesus Christ, which I saw carried out through constantly helping anyone in need; as I learned the Scriptures (1955-1968) in a small-town Pentecostal church, the Florence (CO) Foursquare Church, particularly the emphasis of Pastor McKee who constantly reminded us to check everything out with Scripture; and later (beginning about 1978) as I first encountered the "historic peace churches." As a pre-teen and then young teen, I began to raise the issue of pacifism within the church (without much interest from others), because I saw it in Scripture. Then, as the Vietnam War began, I saw the killing and began to pray and cry over this. Again, this was not a popular stance. In college, I went through mandatory ROTC, which strengthened my convictions, particularly seeing attitudes that just glossed over the essence of the military, that of killing for a cause. I served as a reference for others who sought CO status at this point. During college, I also encountered those who opposed the war for political or philosophical reasons. Many of them were anti-American rather than antiwar, and I began to see the need for a clear position.
After college, I served for a short time as Youth Pastor of the Southwest Denver Foursquare Church. I also served as Director of the Teen Challenge Coffeehouse ministry, a drug rehabilitation ministry under the Assemblies of God Home Missions. In 1972, I met Zora Lea Cutforth, and we were married in 1974. We also studied this issue together from Scripture.
About 1978 or so, we first encountered the "historic peace churches," through tapes from Mennonite Renewal Service. In 1980, the church we were attending went through a split and we joined Garden Park Mennonite Brethren Church (Denver). This put us in touch with others of like theology, both at Garden Park and at other sister churches. Some of these people were Peter Ediger, Menno and Jessie Gaeddert, and Al Zook.
At a conference on issues of violence, we met Bill and Jeannie Durland, and they first raised the issue of war taxes for us. We also learned that friends we had worked with in the Gideons were refusing to pay war taxes. Over time, as we studied this issue, we became convinced that war tax resistance was a Biblically valid stance. In particular, Jesus' call to "Give Caesar what is Caesar's, and God what is God's" restricted us from giving Caesar what Caesar has no right to. Later, I was able to hold an actual denarius from Jesus' day, see Caesar's image, and read Caesar's blasphemous inscriptions, "Caesar is Lord" and "Divine Son of the Divine God." These made the context even more vivid.
We have carried this out in life. We are heavily involved in the Right to Life Movement, which speaks out against "deliberate killing of innocent human beings." We go beyond that by being involved also in peace activism, which addresses loving our enemies as well. Zora and I wrote an article on "Peacemaking and War Taxes: A Dilemma of Conscience," which was published in the March-April 1988 issue of Liberty magazine. We have also written an article on "Civil Disobedience in Biblical and Historical Perspective" which has been accepted for future publication by Liberty. We served on the Steering Committee for the "Christian Peace Revival" conference held in Denver November 9-11, 1990, and we also led workshops at that conference. In addition, Zora served as Moderator of the conference, and I served as press contact. This involved the first response by the Denver peace community to the Gulf crisis, although it originated before that situation began. We have participated in several other peace demonstrations over the years, generally to tell the "Jesus people" that "Jesus said, 'LOVE YOUR ENEMIES'," and to tell the "peace people" that "JESUS SAID, 'Love your enemies.'" We have supported various peace organizations (such as the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund) both financially and through letter writing. We have attempted to give away enough of our income to symbolically (and legally) reduce our taxes that would otherwise go for war-making. After my sister was murdered by her husband in 1988, I wrote to him in prison to offer forgiveness and to talk to him about the forgiveness that Jesus Christ offers.
I have several times refused job assignments which would involve military projects, and have turned down job possibilities which would involve military projects, even though they would have included substantially higher pay (a 50% immediate increase in a 1983 opening, and a 100% or more increase immediately with an opening in 1988 or 1989.)
Address ___________________________________ Date ________________________
___________________________________________ Conference __________________
Social Security Number ____________________ Congregation ________________
Date of Birth _____________________________ Witness _____________________
For your record, complete the following. This document was placed on file
[ ] MCC U.S. Peace Section, 21 S. 12th St., Akron, PA 17501
[ ] Conference Office ___________________________________________________
[ ] Other _______________________________________________________________